American Islam's Hip New Face: Reza Aslan
Someone who just keeps catching my attention and turning up more and more in appearances lately is the Iranian-American author and analyst, Reza Aslan. Admittedly, he has been a bit hard to miss in recent months, and whoever is representing him is really starting to promote him in the media, which is a brilliant move, because this guys is golden. Doing the circuit of media appearances on the strength of the success of his recent book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam as well as becoming a commentator for such outlets as "Slate Magazine", NPR, as well as a Middle East Analyst for "CBS News", Aslan has been popping up in the most hip and fresh settings. His web site is stylish and well organized, with a new MySpace.com page promoted as "under construction". Through his site, one can read excerpts of his books (along with glowing reviews) as well as his other writings, and also find a perfectly organized list of his charismatic television appearances which can then be viewed.
Everything about Aslan seems to be on the 'up and up' as well as the 'up and coming', and it's easy to see why. Far from being a combative and stodgy representative of CAIR or any other taqiyya-factory type of group, Aslan's just the stylish everyman. He's not Middle America, far more cosmopolitan, but in a lovably modern and 'emo' sort of way. He's laid back and witty, with a humble sort of sense of humor that comes across as relaxed and diffusive in the face of any other TV guests who might be worked up about religion in any way. Holding a Masters degree in Theological Studies (from no less than Harvard) and on his way to a PhD, Aslan has ample knowledge at hand whenever a discussion starts going in a direction that may make Islam look negative. He also possesses and uses the same sort of wit that comedians associated with The Daily Show (on which he has been a well-received guest) use to make anyone making a sincere argument in favor of any conservative or Christian point of view look automatically foolish and outmoded.
I'm not offended by Reza Aslan, certainly not repulsed by him in the way that most of us are when we see a representative of CAIR show up to misinterpret issues until they're no longer recognizable. In fact, as far as Muslims whom I've known personally go, the Western-raised refugees of Iran's decades of turmoil are frequently the best assimilated, usually the least serious about their family religion. Persians, like Turks, are not Arabs no matter how closely their countries are to the heart of Arabia. The same cultural standards just do not apply, and with Persians the Islamic sect is not the same as that of most of their neighbors as well (being Shi'a). Anti-theocratic attitudes are often very strong, as are views favoring reform within Islam. In the US, many apostates are found amongst the Iranian born as well as many who simply favor acting more Western than adhering to the strict codes of Islam, certainly in comparison to the insanity of Wahhabism. No, Reza Aslan is the friendly and witty friend you'd want to encounter at parties, were it not for one thing.
No, not bias and the fact that he's Muslim. Despite the slick job of promoting that he and his representatives are doing, Mr. Aslan comes with a caveat. He is going to make the fool of anyone who fears Islamic encroachment in the West, let alone terrorism. He is going to demand respect for his Faith. Open dialogue though it may seem, be prepared for the most regularly cited examples of "Christian atrocities", or simply less than shining moments in Western history. I have yet to hear his take on Israel. But as far as mockery of more Fundamentalist sects of Christianity, as well as any reverence of Western Civilization, Aslan's part of the crowd that sets everything up so as to make themselves all come out as the hip kids and their opponents end up playing the frustrated fool.
In a step much lower that this, however, the other growing tactic that Aslan plays right into the cast of, is this business of turning those who continue to point out the giant elephant of Islamic terrorism and violence in the room as delusional alarmists. On television (that isn't "24") and in more and more mainstream discussions, the mere mention of Muslims or the Jihadi ideology being a threat to the West is being laughed off as though it is a figment of our imaginations. One of the elements making this possible (other than the possibility of the reality of Jedi Mind Tricks) is ironically the passage of time. The farther we get from 9/11/01 with no more successful attacks on the U.S., the more the moonbats act as though 9/11 were an aberation. The other growing method is to act as though anyone keeping our eyes on the Global Jihad is simply screaming that "they sky is falling".
Exemplary and rational seeming new faces such as Reza Aslan along with his essays and television appearances are ready-made to step into this scheme, helping to slowly change perceptions in our world. Helping to marginalize those willing to study and catalogue the growing unrest to outright violence with which Islam and Muslims are increasingly existing in our world. Keep your eyes open, people. Keep them open, and keep them looking for stylish new faces, like that of Reza Aslan.